That’s Hawaiian speak for “it’s easy,” “no worries,” “right on.” At least that’s what I’ve thought it to mean when I lived and played in the islands, decades ago. I’m sure over time it’s come to mean more things to more people. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find the following email from kamaainas (non-locals who become locals by virtue of moving to Hawaii or owning property there). I don’t know them personally, but feel I do through their intermittent communication. Hope you enjoy this mini “pigeon-english” lesson. Never know, it might come in handy on a future visit to my native island paradise.
The “shaka” sign has meant many things over the years and is a definite part of Hawaiian culture and the aloha spirit that is always present in Hawai’i. Today, it can mean many things, including “Howzit?” (How’s it going?), “No worries!”, “Thanks!” and much more. It is by far the most well-known and used gesture by Hawai’i locals and islanders, men, women, and keiki (children) alike. It’s used as a gesture of friendship, to greet, and to say goodbye. It’s how local people wave at others. Interpreted to mean “hang loose” or “right on,” the “shaka” sign is a constant reminder that in Hawaii, it is not the norm to worry or rush. “Shaka” represents the embodiment of “island style.” It signals that everything is all right.
The “shaka” sign is more than just nonverbal communication. When you use it, you acknowledge the true concept of aloha and participate in the synergistic heartbeat of Hawai’i. A guest expressed it this way: “We remember when we got our first “shaka” in Hawai’i. We were enjoying the drive on the road to Hana. We looked in the rearview mirror and noticed a pickup truck following behind us. We assumed the folks in the truck were local residents and weren’t on a sightseeing mission as we were, so at our first opportunity, we pulled over to let the truck pass by us. As the truck passed, the passenger gave us a ‘shaka’.” (By the way, local residents will always appreciate your pulling over to allow them to pass if you are driving slowly.)
To make a “shaka,” extend your thumb and pinkie while curling in the index and middle fingers. You can rotate your wrist too.
The “shaka” is a simple, yet powerful, way to remind locals and visitors of the way people look out for each other on the Islands, and strive to spread aloha day in, and day out, in keeping with the Hawaiian principle of “malama i kekahi i kekahi,”…”take care of one, take care of all.”
If you’re new to the islands, don’t be shy about throwing up “shakas.” Just make sure you’ve got the hand gesture down first!
A hui hou…
Anne & Wes